With America’s most populous state leading the nation in the use of solar and other energy alternatives, the term “Sunny California” is even more appropriate. Also appropriate, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) chose this trend-setting locale to step up its efforts to make our industry pre-eminent in the growing green market.

The market is growing—exponentially. The National Association of Home Builders said close to 50 percent of homes produced between now and 2010 will be built with sustainable products using environmentally friendly techniques. McGraw-Hill Construction projects up to 10 percent of new nonresidential construction will be designed using green principles by 2010. This translates to the market topping more than $205 billion within just three years.

One reason: Recent polls show well over 85 percent of Americans want to see more invested in developing solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy, and they’re getting their wish thanks to a proliferation of green laws. To date, 11 federal agencies, 17 states, 14 counties and an estimated 75 cities have adopted requirements on energy efficiency and sustainability for public construction, and more jurisdictions are joining them every month, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Obviously, then, thinking green is not just a California state of mind. But, with San Francisco planning to break ground for a government structure, which reportedly will be more energy-efficient than any large office building in the United States, it is most fitting that when the NECA Show is held there, our association will dedicate an entire day and an entire section of the show floor to renewable energy and cutting-edge green technologies.

“Think Green Day” will be held Sunday, Oct. 7. The “NECA Notes” section of this magazine provides more information. I am proud and excited that my association is sponsoring this event, but I want to emphasize that this is not the beginning—and certainly not the end—of NECA’s work in cultivating the green market.

For several years now, various elements of energy management and related issues have been part of the education NECA offers contractors and the training we co-sponsor for electrical workers, as well as subjects addressed by our independent research affiliate, ELECTRI International. Now, we’re refining our efforts and filling in the gaps, so both contractors and electricians have a more integrated understanding.

Integrated” is, in fact, a key concept here. The electrical contractor’s role in the green market is facilitated by the confluence of several trends and topics NECA has been addressing for some time—integrated building systems (IBS) and low-voltage work, power conditioning and energy management, design/build contracting, and the EC’s growing responsibility in project delivery. I look forward to discussing in future columns how these issues intersect.

Right now, however, I’ll close with a quote from Lance A. Williams, Ph.D., executive director of the Los Angeles Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC-LA):

“USGBC-LA wholeheartedly supports NECA as an early adopter of green building and sustainable design. NECA has a history of doing the right thing by its members. Now, being in the forefront of promoting energy-efficient measures is the most recent manifestation of its vision. 

There are many compelling reasons why NECA should advocate for sustainability. Both nationally and internationally, NECA members have new business opportunities that will become more and more evident as the emerging green building industry takes shape. In making this step, NECA also aligns itself with the many private and public sector organizations that practice the truism that you can ‘do well by doing good.’” 

Milner Irvin is the President of NECA.